World in Motion: London’s Burning
For anyone reading this nestled safely away anywhere else in the world, London is about to burn for a third night… I’m exaggerating of course but there is some small truth in what I say. Pockets of London have seen violent and seemingly directionless rioting previously unheard of. I say unheard of because whilst, of course, London has seen its fair share of rioting in the past this has always been the outward expression of some other severe underlying malaise. These riots on the other hand, seem to be wholly opportunistic in their nature and fuelled solely by the need for flat screen TVs, Nike Air’s and Reebok Classics rather than some noble political purpose.
To be honest I’m not even certain anyone really knows the reason all of this kicked off in the first place, the watershed moment appears to be the shooting of young man carrying a gun which is then followed by a lot of rumour and Chinese whispers, the Chinese whispers create the catalyst and a massive backlash against the now projected fears of the youth of the community. I’m being flippant of course, because I’m sure that the anger and disaffection towards the state that leads to this type of behaviour is actually symptomatic of deeply rooted problems within our society; inequality of opportunity, generational poverty, institutional racism and the fracturing of communities that comes about from gentrification through dispersal and alienation (its no real surprise that the rioting is now centred around Tottenham, Dalston and Brixton where the transient middle classes collide with a trapped underclass who have little investment in the community).
At the risk of sounding extreme I think we could be on the verge of a low level civil war, fought inside community bubbles and fuelled by paranoia, where those that seemingly have no regard for their surroundings come up against those who do. I fully expect to see the hooded youth become an image of fear and a threat to the stability of communities way beyond anything that we could possibly have imagined ten years ago. The Conservative’s flawed ‘Hug a Hoody’ campaign of old will be the litmus for the extent of this change, bats will replace ‘hugs’ and masked fire bomb wielding maniacs will replace the once affably harmless ‘hoody’… The joke is that this betrays the crux of the problem, if these ‘misunderstood’ youths thought themselves misunderstood on Saturday afternoon then they have no idea what kind of shit is about to hit the fan. The longer these riots go on (and bear in mind it’s only been two nights), the deeper the distrust of the youth is going to embed itself, especially once normal people have been riled up into a state of frenzy by the tabloid press and ill educated hacks decrying a state of civil war. At that point it’s only a matter of time before fear and retreat turn into a defensive position and then ultimately attack. Are you seeing the picture that I’m paining now? Real people in a real postcode war.
Or perhaps order will be restored before the wave peaks and crashes around our feet in a sea of broken glass and burned out Fords. Maybe treating violent crime, street robbery and burglary with more than just a crime reference number could be a step in the right direction if you want anyone, both assailant and victim, to have any concept of the rule of law as both a force for justice and protection.